Friday, December 16, 2005

The enemies of information technology

In 1937, Alan Turing proved that a machine can solve all computable mathematical problems. Thanks to his machine, he later managed to decipher the nazis' cryptography and make sure that the Allied forces won the Second World War. As a 'thank you', the British state forced him to endure a humiliating hormonal treatment against his homosexuality, which ultimately resulted in his suicide.
70 years later, a Swedish conservative party has decided to continue the humiliation.
Three important votings regarding the 'be or not to be' of signal modulation. Three wrongs out of three. The social democrats are the only Swedish party which has voted for software patents, for data retention, and for more stringent 'intellectual property' laws applied on algorithms and an insane prohibition of encryption analysis.
This insanity must end! Let Turing rest in peace.

This posting was lovingly copied & translated from Sweden's best blog, Copyriot.      Kopimi!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Don't let 2006 become 1984! [updated]

[Updated 15/12:] Can't trust 'em

The EU Parliament voted for the data retention directive (378 votes for, 197 against, 30 absent) on the 14/12. The directive, thrust through by the UK under their Presidency and after the events of July 7th, is avidly supported by conservatives both on the right and on the left (i.e. socialists and social democrats), whereas greens and liberals have voiced strong dissent towards the undemocratic nature of the directive. 70% of the Swedish MEPs voted against the directive — the only ones supporting it being the social democrats (whose main propagandist in this issue is Swedish Minister of Justice Thomas Bodström). The reason behind the directive is that data retention is believed to be a counter-measure against terrorism. I myself severely doubt this. More plausibly, it risks to significantly fracture the personal privacy of EU citizens.
Whatever the tally of the Parliamentary vote, Bodström asserts that the directive would have become reality anyway, at any cost. He doesn’t give two flying figs about parliamentary participation:
“If the Parliament votes for it, that gives it a democratic surplus value — if they are against it I anticipate a ministerial decision,” he said to Swedish newpaper Dagens Nyheter.
Bodström's closest ally, State Secretary Dan Eliasson, directly avoided to answer back regarding the privacy aspect of the directive, when I emailed him the other day. Instead, he chose to focus entirely on the purely pragmatic part of the reasoning behind it; the cost aspect. Where is the ideology in the thinking behind this directive? Exactly these rhtorical manouvres we see among neocons in the US and with New Labour in the UK — through concentrating purely on the means, the ends and guiding principles behind them are completely hidden!
It is absolutely frightening that social democrats in Europe are pursuing a realpolitik here that lies so close to actually being a war hawk policy, a policy which in this case undoubtedly lies closer to right-wing conservativism than left-wing liberalism.
However, below is my open letter to the MEPs, pre the unfortunate defeat.

Open letter to the Members of European Parliament, to warn about the consequences of the current data retention directive (backed by EU Commission and Council) which aims to a law-enforced storage of electronic tele- and data traffic.

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am emailing to warn you about the consequences of the current directive;

COD/2005/0182 Electronic communications: personal data protection rules and availability of traffic data for anti-terrorism purposes (amend. direct. 2002/58/EC)
The EU Parliament will vote on this controversial directive on data retention this Tuesday, 2005-12-13. I urge you to vote against it, first and foremost because our civil liberties and rights risk being radically repressed due to this directive, all in the name of “terrorist threat”.

I ask you to consider the following, very likely outcomes of the directive:

* There is huge risk that the “intellectual property” industry will use this directive to get unlimited possibilities in spying on their own consumers. Sony BMG is already using so-called ‘spy-ware’ which is automatically installed on your computer if you play music CDs distributed by this cartel. See link.

* Also, data retention is extremely expensive. In Sweden alone, the cost of constructing the system is estimated to €100 million, and then around €30—40 million a year to run it. Who will pay this cost? The tax payers?

* Additionally, this directive risks creating a society where information exchange will increasingly happen through anonymised, encrypted networks, and so-called ‘darknets’ and remailers. Anonymised, encrypted networks already exist; for example TOR, Waste and Freenet. Is a move to such underground technologies to prefer over today’s more open society?

American CIA agents and personnel are already operating on European ground, with the apparent (witting or unwitting) complicity of European governments and police. Ordinary, law-abiding Pakistani architects emailing sketches of skyscrapers in-between each other get threatening letters from American intelligence services, asking them what the purpose is of this communication – the intelligence services knowing what has been emailed due to the Echelon spy network. As a user of Microsoft Hotmail, you sign a contract where you, in vague wording, have to agree to all material being sent through their service becoming public, and to other (juridical) persons (including Microsoft) being able to use “your” material. This current EU directive will facilitate further such transnational abuses of personal integrity.

Article 8 i the European Convention for Human Rights (following Human Rights Act 1998) states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. Article 12 in the UN Declaration of Human Rights is synonymous. The current directive thus violates both the European Convention and the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, the Art. 29 Working Party, consisting of European national Data Protection authorities oppose the type of data retention that the Commission and Council propose.

The vote on this data retention directive is happening on the 13th of December in the EU Parliament.

More links:
Music biz to 'hijack' Europe's data retention laws
MEPs urged to reject data retention plan
EU data retention law to help in fight against terrorism

Monday, December 12, 2005

Industry heads reaching new levels of absurdity

I own the text of this blog. You're not allowed to read it without my permit...
So stop reading now!
You need to email me first!!!
...hey, OK you've gone too far now.
Oh, and that song you're whistling, I own the rights to that one as well. Stop whistling, or I'll call the police!
And the chair you're sitting on! My father owns the patents! Are you really sure you've signed a contract with him allowing you to sit on it like that?
Is it worn? You've made alterations to it!!! That is, like, 15 years in jail, if I would have my say in the matter!!!
The link: "intellectual property" industry reaching new levels of draconian absurdity: guitar tabs and song scores posted online should be made illegal, says the US Music Publishers' Association (MPA). These guys are even urging for imprisonment of copyright-infringers.